Post one of several ‘what we did on our summer holidays’. Just indulge me – thanks.
One of my favourite places in Northern Ireland, or perhaps anywhere: the gardens of Seaforde House. I love it because I can’t think of a more surreal place to immerse myself in without paying through the nose to see the Making of Harry Potter (again).
You are greeted by peacocks in the car park, for a start. Eight, in fact, and that was just the car park. (You used to see one pair of peafowl if you were lucky. Now you can’t move without tripping over them.) The peamenfolk looked a little sorry for themselves, because having wowed the laydeez with their tail feathers throughout July’s mating season, their tail feathers did what they always do in August and fell out.
The thing about the gardens at Seaforde is that you’ve just been through the butterfly house, which is warm and humid and stuffed full of parrots and turtles as well as tropical butterflies, so you’re already feeling discombulated about which continent you’re on when you come out the other side.
Then you step through a door in a stone wall into the properly surreal part. I can’t really put my finger on what makes it so other-worldly. It has exotic trees, but so does Kew Gardens. Maybe it’s the 12-foot stone walls, or the ludicrous height of some of the trees, the fact that the sun always seems to shine there, or because there are hardly any other visitors, or the giant carnivorous plants,** or because there was a peahen halfway up a tree making a noise like a foghorn. Anyway, it all feels deliciously forbidden and secret and perhaps a little prehistoric.
You would think it would be crawling with visitors in August, but I think we saw a total of three other families. Perhaps there are more who come in than go out, what with the carnivorous plants…
And to complete the disorientation, there was a maze. I hate mazes. I remember pushing the Cutester’s buggy around a huge one in a cornfield, in circles, close to tears, and suddenly realising that this stressful reenactment of everyday life for a chronically absent minded person with no sense of direction was something I’d actually paid for. Anyway, on this occasion the Cutesterwas up for it (it was just the two of us – the Redster and her father were off conquering the Mourne mountains), and after much pitter-pattering of feet on the gravel on the other side of countless hedges, she found the centre. Then she had to come back and find me, and find the centre again. (She also found the centre a third time when someone in the coffee shop told us she’d left her coat there.) It was quite painless really.
It was a good way to finish the holiday, especially as we managed not to drive over any peacocks on the way out.
* Note about the photos: Mr Suburbanite is the proper photographer in the family, which always makes me lose the will to take any pictures myself. But he wasn’t there. So these are just ‘snaps’, OK?